The Theory of Sunken Costs

“Everything turned around
Packing up
Shacking up is all you want to do.”– Lindsey Buckingham

There are some days when I know exactly what to write. There are others where I am clearly winging it from the start. I was listening to sports radio on the way to work when two ideas converged on me all within about a five minute period. The first was a Greg Abbott ad. Republicans advertise on the station all the time.

In this ad we were regaled with Joe Biden’s supposedly open border policy and how Abbott was protecting Texans from the big, bad Mexican cartels bringing over drugs from south of the border. Of course, my daughter was able to poke fun at those of us that listen to sports radio in ways only she can. Suffice it to say, there is a reason why conservatives seem to think sports radio is a place fertile for them to advertise their wears.

When the show returned to its regularly scheduled content, the deejays were talking about the theory of sunken cost. In this case, it referred to whether a team should let go of a player they had invested heavily in. The organizations that do the best are the ones that realize their mistakes early on and pivot effectively.

The fallacy of sunken costs is basically our tendency to double down on a belief, strategy, or endeavor because pivoting would be an admission that we were wrong and that we’d wasted time, money, and/or energy on a bad idea. The concept is really a two-pronged concept. First, there is the reluctance to give up because of the previous time, money, and energy wasted. Second, there is a reluctance to give up because we would have to admit that we made an error in judgment.

So, let’s take a look at the ads being played on the radio as an example. The ad focuses on three belief structures that are more or less untrue. The first is that illegal immigration is on the rise. We can see when we look at the numbers that it has been in steady decline in recent years.

The second portion of that fallacy is that undocumented immigrants are somehow inherently dangerous. The ads focus on law enforcement and how Abbott is protecting us from the big, bad immigrants. Yet, when we look at numbers from the same source as above, we notice that undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a much lower rate than legal immigrants and natural born citizens.

So, that obviously plays into the third fallacy of the commercial. Violent crime rates are on the rise nationwide. Yet, they seem to be in decline on the southern border. Multiple reports and studies demonstrate that a border wall would not effectively reduce crime at the border or in the country at large. Yet, the ads keep banging that drum anyway.

The question is how we free a subset of the population that seems to be wrapped in fear and free them from the clutches of red herrings and misinformation? Pundits have long known that when you can sell the country on daddy issues (defense, crime, safety) then conservatives usually win. When mommy issues are the most dominant (education, health care, human rights) then the progressives usually win.

However, this goes beyond that. It goes to a group of people that have obviously backed the wrong horse. They’ve watched that horse come in last in nearly every race at the track. He talks about protecting them and he clearly doesn’t do that. He talks about how corrupt his opponents were and he is clearly the most corrupt politician in the history of the country.

It’s clearly not about stopping the steal or draining the swamp anymore. Those excuses died a long time ago. It is very simple. The longer people hold on to their love and adulation of a thoroughly evil man the harder it becomes to give up on that love and adulation. They would then have to admit that the love and adulation was misplaced. That’s admitting that they’ve wasted time, money, and brain power. That’s admitting they were duped. The greatest con anyone can pull is the con of getting you to accept being conned because it’s just too painful to admit you were conned.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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